How Vancouver Islanders can help evacuees displaced by wildfires

How Vancouver Islanders can help evacuees displaced by wildfires

As tens of thousands remain under evacuation orders, charity support has poured in and virtual resource centres, including on Vancouver Island, have started to provide aid.

“All hands on deck,” said Paige Marshall, emergency program specialist at the Saanich Emergency Program.

Seventeen volunteers will be spending long days inside a new response centre in Saanich, assisting with a backlog of requests from evacuees in the Okanagan region. Using a computer and headset, they’ll be able to virtually assist others.

“Making phone calls to those who have been evacuated, making sure they’re registered with the province, and providing those basic and immediate needs,” said Marshall.

The program is a division of the Saanich Fire Department, which is one of many response centres that have been tasked with providing extra help. Marshall adds there are two volunteers on site in the Okanagan.

“We are doing the same thing here in Saanich but on a virtual level…we are just providing that people power, the same supports they can provide in the reception centres,”

Several charities have set up operations on the ground, including the Canadian Red Cross and United Way of BC.

“It’s a very terrifying situation for a lot of people,” said Kristi Rintoul, Community Impact manager at UWBC.

The organization has dozens of volunteers on the ground providing meals, drinks, shelter, blankets, and emotional support. Much of the work they do involves collaborating with other charities stationed in the area.

“We had a group lodging that was being set up in Kelowna to support evacuees from West Kelowna late Friday night. They didn’t have enough blankets, so United Way was able to mobilize multiple community partners, and within an hour and a half, we had more than enough blankets,” said Rintoul.

United Way of BC says it’s also launching a portal on its website on Aug. 23 that will allow charities and organizations helping evacuees to apply for a grant.

Disaster Aid Canada, based out of Ladysmith, is still in its fundraising stages, which will go towards equipment and materials for shelters. The charity hasn’t sent anyone to the Okanagan yet but remains in contact with regional organizations.

“We will probably be going straight to the second phase of the disaster, which will be not a response effort, but rather the rebuilding efforts,” said Frank Elsom, Board Member.

Disaster Aid says it raised a few thousand dollars, but more is still needed.

“Once this is over, there’s going to be a lot of people needing help,” said Elsom.

How to help:

CanadaHelps: CanadaHelps has put together a list of verified charities which are helping people affected by the wildfires both in B.C.

United Way of BC: The United Way of BC has set up a BC Wildfire Recovery Fund where you can donate money to help provide meals, drinks, shelter, blankets, and more.

Canadian Red Cross: The Canadian Red Cross is raising funds to help those impacted. The charity says it’s helping by providing food, clothing, and shelter and with recovery efforts when people are able to return.

Disaster Aid Canada: The charity says it’s in close contact with Rotary groups and other organizations in affected regions. The group focuses on providing equipment and materials to form shelters. Disaster Aid Canada has been providing relief efforts in Maui and Ukraine.

The Salavation Army: The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) says its providing food and hydration to first responders across both Kelowna and West Kelowna. The charity says it’s currently serving over 1,000 meals a day. Those who were displaced by the fires are being offered food, drinks, emotional and spiritual care, hygiene kits and other materials.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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